Covered Council Ring




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by Ernest Thompson Seton

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In the previous article I gave the plans for building the usual Woodland Council Ring, for use chiefly in summer and in fine weather.

The Covered Council is good in any weather and the year round. The one we use, and on which I built my model, is close copy of the old Sioux Council Ring, with one or two slight modifications.

The materials needed are

bullet9 Posts of cedar or chestnut about 10 inches at the butt and 10 feet long 
bullet9 others 13 feet long 
bulletA lot of chestnut, cedar, spruce or pine poles for frame work, 4 to 8 inches thick, and amounting to 500 linear feet 
bulletEnough chestnut slabs or else rough lumber, to cover roof, 1,200 board feet 
bulletEnough slabs or lumber to close the sides all around, 1,000 board feet 
bulletBoards or selected slabs for the seats, 500 board feet 
bulletRoofing paper--1,200 square feet 
bullet10 lbs. of 3 inch nails, 20 lbs. of 4 inch, 20 lbs. of 5 inch

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 Labor usually equals the cost of material, but nowadays might be more.

First, select a level place, or make one, in some quiet and picturesque spot not more than 400 yards from camp and better half that.

This space must be 36 feet across, with the central 24 feet at least, dead level.

Lay out the plan with 18 stakes representing the 18 posts. (Cut I.) Dig 18 post holes 2 1/2 or 3 ft. deep, set the posts strongly. Saw the tops off the posts level, after they are in, leaving the outer posts 7 ft. above the level of the ground, the inner, 10 ft. ( See Cut II.)

Now prepare to put up the frame. For eave-stringer over the 12 ft. space between each outer post, select a stout 13 ft. pole [A(2) Cut III.] say 5 or 6 inches thick. Flatten its two ends to 3 inches thick, as they are to lap the next pole on the posts. The lap joint is stronger than the butted joint. Spike this in place.

Then at the bottom sink in another stout pole for a sill. (F in II and III.) The ends of this may be butted to the next sill where they meet on each post.

For the upper, inner or 10 ft. level [B(2)] on the tall posts (B); the space is only 8 ft., therefore a 9 ft. pole will do. The innermost highest pole [C(2)] is across a 6 foot space, so a 7ft. pole will answer. This last is carried on braces, one from each post. The braces (C) are 6 ft. long and must be held in place, each with a 3 ft. binder of slab (D).

The bottom of the brace (C) is notched a little way into the post (B). At the top, this brace is sawed off level; then all is strongly spiked together.

Roof. Having set up in 9 sections the whole frame as in Cuts II and III, you are ready for the roofing. It is not easy to get 14 1/2 ft. slabs and one can do without many of them; but it is well to have 2 or 3 in each of the 9 sections of the roof, to bind it together. (Cut IV.)

Of course there should be no joints on the 3rd stringer (C2) All breaks must come on B(2). If slabs are used, it is best to set them round side up. And before laying them, cut off all knots and rough spots that might make a hole in the roof paper. Of course, a lumber roof is much easier to manage.

Finally note that each slab, or board, projects inwards 3 ft. beyond C2. All of these loose projecting ends should now be bound by nailing them to a 4 ft. slab (E, Cuts II and IV), which is placed under them, flat side up. This, it will be noted, leaves a smoke hole, 12 feet in diameter.

Now for the paper roofing. The most satisfactory kind is the heavy asphalt paper covered with broken slate; green looks best of the available colors.

It is usual to lay this paper on in horizontal bands, beginning at the top, and leaving the lower edge loose, to slip the next breadth under it. Thus you avoid walking on the paper. If nailed on slabs with round side up, you must select the nailing places carefully, letting the paper sag all it will, into the dip between each slab.

Each paper strip must be cut in a gore at the end of the section; give it 4 inches lap over the next paper on each side.

The paper is best put on in warm weather, as that makes it more pliable, and less apt to break. In time the heat and rain cause it to settle down between the bumps of the slab roof, giving an agreeable and picturesque variation.


The simplest way to make the seats is as follows

Spike a stout 6 ft, pole (G) on the face of the posts A and B, so that its top side is 1 ft. from the ground and level; 2 1/4 ft. back from the front of G, set, up the stout strong post, H, 8 or 9 inches high. On this, set the heavy 3 1/2, ft. pole I, the outer end of which is spiked on the cheek of the lost A; 2 1/4 ft. back from the front of I, set up another 8 inch post, and on that a thick pole K, which is 18 inches long, the outer end spiked as before to the upright post A. Of course, before nailing, all these poles, etc., must be flattened at the place where they fit on the other pole.

Go all around the 9 posts, making a strong frame of this kind, except at the Council Rock, which is the Chief's Seat. This is 2 ft. wide with a sloping back 2 ft, high. There are no seats behind it. That space is reserved for storage of fire-wood, etc.

Of course, the 12 ft, space between posts is too wide for seats without support; therefore, we must set a small upright between each pair of posts (L in III). This upright may be 4 a inch pole, or a 2 x 4 scantling. It rests on the sill, and is butted under the eaves-stringer.

This takes the place of the big posts A when it comes to spiking up the horizontal poles, G, I, K, that carry the seats.

It is now an easy matter to nail on the seats, using scrap lumber or slabs, but taking care to make them comfortable and strong. Cut off all rough and sharp points. The lowest and second seats are 2 ft. 3 inches wide because they must serve as foot-rests for the row above as well as seats. The top seat is 18 inches wide.


There should be two entrances, one just behind the Chief's seat for messengers, and one at the most convenient part of the ring for the crowd. Sometimes the main entrance is right opposite the Chief, and that is perhaps best, but it does very well at whatever is the most convenient place. Slab doors with wooden hinges may be added to each entrance if desired.


If necessary to close in the Council Hall for the weather, it is easily done by nailing 7 ft. lumber or slabs up and down between the eave-stringer and the sill, leaving space for the two doors.

Now set up two poles behind the Council Rock 6 ft. apart, 7 ft. higher than the seat; over the top of this put a 7 ft. cross bar. This is to carry the Tribal Robe while the Council sits. Now the Council Ring is complete and ready for consecration. It will seat about 200.

See Also:

Woodcraft Council Ring

The Birch Bark Roll 






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.